Finding the Flip Side

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Rumor has it that there are people out there who don’t really like chocolate.  It shocks me, but I don’t really like strawberry jello or chocolate and fruit together, so to each his own! 

A few days ago I posted a favorite recipe that never seems to fail to please: Caramel Layer Choco-Squares.  I recently made them for some college kids who came to help out our church.  They were a hit with three of the kids, but one of the girls doesn’t like chocolate, so these bars were not something she thought appealing.  It got me to thinking–could I turn this recipe into the opposite of the ultimate chocolate it was?  And would it work?

Since I can’t leave well enough alone, I tried it this past Wednesday–I reversed the darkness of the chocolate-y goodness.  They remain unnamed at this point in time, and I am open to suggestions.  Blonde Caramel Layer Bars?  I didn’t have a white cake mix, so I ended up making that from scratch.  On half of the pan I also added regular chocolate chips, just to see.  It meant that those weren’t the complete opposite of the chocolate ones, but they were still good!

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  • 1 bag (40-50) light caramels or 1 bag Kraft Caramel Bits
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
  • 1 white or yellow cake mix or the following 6 ingredients:
    • 2-1/4 cups flour
    • 1-1/2 cups sugar
    • 3-1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup white baking chips
  • 1/2 – 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
  •  

In microwavable dish, combine caramels and 1/3 cup of milk.  Microwave on high 1 minute.  Stir.  Microwave another minute.  Stir.  Mixture should be smooth and creamy.   Set aside.

Grease and flour 9 x 13 pan.  In a large mixing bowl, combine dry cake mix (or the alternate 6 ingredients), almond extract (if using), butter, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and walnuts.  Stir by hand until dough holds together.  Press ½ of dough into prepared pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 6-10 minutes or until top begins to look dry.  Sprinkle baking chips (and chocolate chips, if using) over baked crust.  Spread caramel mixture over chips.  Crumble (or spoon in dollops) remaining dough over caramel mixture.  Return to oven and bake 15-25 minutes or until edges are browned and top is beginning to become golden brown.  Cool slightly.  Refrigerate 30 minutes and cut.  Best stored in refrigerator.

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 I won’t say that they’re as indulgent or rich as the original chocolate version, but if you’re looking for an alternative to chocolate, they’re good.  So often when you think of a “white” brownie or bar, it tends to be more like a dry shortbread and so often includes fruit.  I’m sorry, but fruit is not a substitute for chocolate!   But these bars are not dry or unappetizing at all!  They’re chewy, gooey, and, yes, delicious.  I personally like the bit of almond in them.

I’ve always followed the original chocolate recipe to a “t”, blinded so much by its extraordinarily intoxicating and addictive indulgence that I failed to think that there might be other variations on this simple-to-make, easy-to-please dessert.  Perhaps a spice cake mix with white chips?  Could you use chocolate caramels?  What about peanuts instead of walnuts?  It gets you thinking, huh?  😉 

The lesson I take away from this is that it never hurts to tweak and experiment with something you know works.  What’s it going to hurt to try something a bit different?  Worst case: it doesn’t taste as good as you thought it might.  Best case:  a big pan of yum!

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